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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
The negative side of testing
Mark Richardson
Richardson has been cleared of using nandrolone
The issues surrounding drug testing of athletes are becoming ever more clouded after new developments involving British pair Mark Richardson and Dougie Walker along with Jamaican veteran Merlene Ottey.

We asked BBC Sport's James Pearce, who has been following the controversy, to explain more about the trio's cases and the substance of nandrolone itself.

British 400m runner Richardson has been cleared by UK Athletics of using the banned steroid.

Sprinter Walker, suspended after a similar test, has won his High Court fight to take part in the Olympic trials.

But the Britons' Olympic participation is still. in doubt, unlike Ottey who has now been cleared to compete by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF).

James Pearce was first asked about what has happened to Mark Richardson?

He tested positive in October for a substance called nandrolone. He was suspended by UK Athletics pending a disciplinary hearing.

The disciplinary hearing has seen evidence from a research team and decided the charges should be dropped as there was no proof he took it deliberately.


The evidence suggests you can be positive without doing anything illegal
The BBC's James Pearce
The evidence suggests you can be positive without doing anything illegal. It could be a combination of taking legal dietary substances and exercise.

What is the situation with Dougie Walker?

Dougie Walker tested positive in 1998, but was found not guilty about a year ago.

But the IAAF wanted to take him to an arbitration hearing, which still hasn't taken place and is now likely to be in the middle of August.

The latest development means he has won the right to take part in the British Olympic trials, but he could yet be suspended again.

Next Wednesday, the IAAF will possibly announce they are allowing all the suspended athletes to take part in Olympic trials.

What is nandrolone?

Simply put, nandrolone is a performance-enhancing stimulant.

The current debate centres on whether it can be produced naturally.

Why has it been in the news so much?

There's been a rash of positive tests, including Walker and Richardson.

James Pearce
The IAAF is worred about potential lawsuits, says James Pearce
The concern has been whether they are innocent parties to the problems of the testing process.

So why is Ottey, who also tested positive, completely in the clear?

The Jamaican is ahead of everybody. She's been to the arbitration hearing and been cleared by that.

Walker's legal team are annoyed that they haven't been given a date for a hearing. They believe they have been treated unfairly. The IAAF say it's been delayed by UK Athletics.

How reliable is the research?

UK Athletics are very pleased with the research, which the IAAF have helped to fund. They are hoping the IAAF will take note of the research and take away the suspensions.

Dougie Walker
Walker was given a boost in the High Court
The problem with the research is it's no way near completed.

They've only tested a small number of people when they need to test dozens, maybe hundreds.

One test result which was interesting saw three non-athletes given dietary substances.

The two who didn't take exercise tested negative.

The third person tested positive for nandrolone.

Does this leave the testing of athletes in crisis?

The IAAF wants to make sure that everyone isn't given carte blanche to take nandrolone.

It's a nightmare for the governing body, partly because of the legal implications.

Athletes' careers are made and broken at the Olympics.

The lawyers are going to be fairly concerned. An athlete could face a major loss of revenue for not taking part in the Olympics, and then be cleared later.

I'm sure the IAAF must be very concerned about possible lawsuits.

See also:

25 Jul 00 | Athletics
25 Jul 00 | Athletics
25 Jul 00 | Athletics
26 Jul 00 | Athletics
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